Twitter's 'moderation problem' and Elon Musk's approach

Twitter's "moderation problem" and Elon Musk's approach

In the English-speaking world, there are people who introduce Elon Musk, who bought Twitter, as "Twitter's most important shitposter." This introduction, if somewhat crude, does tell a certain side of Elon.

Eaton's transmission style, which often uses memes and images to make fun of and inflame opponents he doesn't like, has often been viewed as a problem, as well as the topics of Tesla and SpaceX, which he manages.

For example, in the 2018 accident at Tham Luang Cave in Thailand, a lawsuit was filed against Vernon Unsworth, a British diver, for a tweet that could be considered defamatory (Eaton won the case). That same year, he was accused by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission of tweeting a joke about taking Tesla's shares private. But Elon is restricted from tweeting about certain topics without his lawyer's permission.

Elon himself often complains about these restrictions and public bashing, saying, ``Everyone should be able to send what they like.'' De-moderation, or at least transparency, in social media, such as criticizing former President Trump for suspending his account and solidarity with Kanye West, whose account was temporarily suspended for his anti-Semitic remarks. I have shown a strong interest in the topic.

This time, it is the original motivation for Eaton to acquire Twitter, and the biggest issue is this "moderation" issue. Who controls the information displayed on the Twitter timeline and on what basis? That is the essence of moderation.

The Free Speech faction of the Free Speech Party

"We are the free speech wing of the free speech party."

In 2012, Tony Wang, then head of Twitter in the UK, told the Guardian's media summit: Twitter is as neutral as possible to the content posted, and it is a word spoken with the intention to convey it as faithfully as is possible.

At that time, Twitter's posting rules were about 600 words at most. They only listed privacy protection, prohibition of slander, protection of copyright, and prohibition of content such as fraud and pornography. There's something about the idyllic days when it was believed that if you were clear about what should be banned, the platform would be healthy.

But those idyllic days would soon come to an end. By 2016, the Code more than doubled in length, adding provisions for preventing trademark infringement, hate speech, harassment, and later on civic interference, election fraud, and misleading content. It will swell up.

While in office, former President Trump continued to push the boundaries of Twitter's terms of service and used it cunningly. With a whopping 5,276 inaccurate or false tweets that were fact-checked during his tenure, Trump has been both a savior and a disaster for Twitter, drawing attention to the platform.

Used Twitter to threaten North Korea's Kim Jong-un, saying, "There is a bigger nuclear button on my desk,'' and in connection with the assassination of Iran's General Soleimani, "Add retaliation to retaliation. ', and there was a lot of discussions on and off Twitter about how to respond to the president who attacks political opponents with lies mixed with statements daily.

Twitter's terms of service prohibit inciting violence and slander, so the president's account should be subject to some restrictions, but the right to restrict postings by the world's most famous and powerful beings. The question is whether it's on Twitter.

On the other hand, there are also voices of concern that neutrality will be lost as Twitter cracks down on 'what is right and what is slanderous'. Twitter has become a platform for criticism no matter what happens.

Twitter initially published an article titled "World Leaders and Twitter,'' saying, "Although the terms of service apply to all Twitter users, the tweets of world leaders are highly important and the need for discussion is high. I will not delete it and try to escape.

But after Trump's tweets became more violent when he learned his tweets weren't deleted, he began labeling inaccurate tweets as "potentially fake news," and in some cases tweets. We will implement a policy to hide and suppress the spread of RT etc.

Twitter's "moderation problem" and Elon Musk's approach

 A schematic diagram of inaccurate tweets is hidden and a cautionary note is displayed instead.

This policy was first applied in May 2020, and Trump's tweets such as "Mail-in voting is full of fraud '' and `` When the riots start, the shootings start '' are displayed with fact-check labels, and tweets are displayed. It is now hidden.

"Twitter is infringing on free speech! As president, I will not allow it!" As a result, the Twitter account will be frozen.

'Free speech absolutist' Elon

Despite this long history of freezing former President Trump's account, many people are dissatisfied with this response. And Elon is said to be one of them.

"Free speech is the foundation of a vibrant democracy, and Twitter is a digital public space where issues relevant to the future of humanity are discussed."

Elon touched on this topic in Twitter's takeover offer and promised to promote it. He even describes himself as a "free speech absolutist".

However, Elon himself is also trying to block inconvenient speech, by banning strict slander prohibition clauses for Tesla employees who are dismissed and prohibiting Tesla customers from sending vehicle impressions, etc. It has also been pointed out that the

Many people question whether Elon can really be trusted as a guardian of free speech.

Twitter's relationship with advertisers is in jeopardy

One of the most confusing and unavoidable aspects of this is the relationship between Twitter and advertisers. It is known that 90% of Twitter's revenue in 2021 will come from advertising, but advertisers are withdrawing from Twitter, which was acquired by Eaton, for fear of damaging the brand image. There is a topic.

According to journalist Kara Swisher, who reported on this, Twitter's chief customer officer Sarah Parsonette resigned and Elon fired even executives with deep ties to advertisers. It is said that the turmoil spread rapidly among advertising-related companies.

Due to this situation, Elon gathered the chief market officers in the advertising industry for a meeting and asked, "What are your plans for the future?" As a result, some companies raised their budgets even before the meeting was over, causing chaos.

At the same time, there was an incident in which the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was shot by a man who broke into his home and was seriously injured, and Elon posted a tweet that hinted at a conspiracy theory and deleted it. 

Ad revenue is the lifeblood of Twitter. Elon himself understands this, which is why his first tweet after the acquisition was decided to reassure advertisers.

In this tweet, Elon declares, "Twitter can't be a hellish place where no one can take responsibility for what they say." He also announced that a council on content moderation will be gathered from various perspectives to decide what kind of speech is allowed and whether the account can be unfrozen.

In the interim report, it was a good idea to postpone the conclusion until the public had time to consider whether former President Trump's account would be revived.

Acting as a "free speech absolutist" drives away advertisers. That would put Twitter as a business in trouble. It may be said that Elon's impatience and dilemma are summarized here.

Moderation is impossibly difficult

So, again, what is the issue of moderation for Twitter?

It's a highly technical and highly political issue that determines what tweets are displayed on a limited screen, what tweets are amplified, and what is suppressed.

For example, in the United States, former President Trump and other Republican supporters have claimed that since around 2018, the spread of their tweets has been suppressed, and their accounts have been subject to a "shadow ban" that makes them invisible to searches.

In response to this, Twitter released a research report that shadowbans based on political reasons do not exist, but even if there were no such artificial alterations, what would be displayed on the timeline? It is a technically advanced and psychologically sensitive problem.

For example, the timeline of a person who follows only 10 people may be relatively slow and all tweets may not be displayed, but a person who follows 10,000 people can display them on the screen per unit of time. There is a limit to tweets, so you will have to thin them out.

If people with extremely high tweet frequency are displayed all the time, spam will increase, so we have to thin it out, and while reducing tweets that look like noise, offensive tweets, and irrelevant tweets, Prioritize topics of interest according to the follow-up status of each user and dynamically change related advertisements. This is done in real-time for users who are said to be 200 million people all over the world.

But the problem doesn't end here. The thinned outside has its own reasons and arguments, so we have to listen, and the timeline optimized for the user's attention is the weak minority and the important but niche information. We must also consider the possibility of restraint. On the other hand, there may be times when you have to amplify advertisements against the will of users to generate revenue, and in the first place, if Twitter is not a fun place for each user, users will be taken away by TikTok and Instagram. Increase.

With all of this in mind, we want the resulting timeline to be fair, neutral, interesting to users, secure in line with our moderation policies, and still useful and non-revenue able for advertisers. Do not. Twitter timeline moderation is an impossibly difficult balance to strike.

That's the challenge facing Elon now.

Eaton has suggested that transparency can be brought about in the form of open-sourcing Twitter's algorithm on this issue. But I don't know if that will solve the problem. This is because moderation is not a problem that can be solved by technology alone, but a problem that keeps balancing values.

At some point, after the Twitter acquisition was completed, Elon changed his location to "Hell" on his profile. Is it Elon's first-class irony, or is it a reminiscence of a scene different from what I thought?

What's certain is that the future of Twitter's loyal users is also inextricably bound up with him, whether we like it or not.

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